Churches count cost of lead thefts

Appeal: Rev Chris Nelson outside St Mary's Church
Appeal: Rev Chris Nelson outside St Mary's Church

Churches in South Ribble are being encouraged to fit CCTV, security lights and anti-vandal paint in a bid to stamp out gangs of criminals looking to cash in on lead flashing and flagstones.

Around 25 churches across Leyland, Bamber Bridge and Penwortham have signed up to form ‘Church Watch’ in a bid to stamp out thieves targeting places of worship.

The formation of the group, which will work like a neighbourhood watch scheme, follows a spate of six lead thefts in December in South Ribble.

Reports of other thefts have also been received including the theft of copper wiring from businesses and homes.

St Mary’s Church, in Brownedge Lane, Bamber Bridge, is counting the cost of the attacks.

Father Terence Richardson said: “We’ve been targeted six times in a year and each time it’s for lead.

“We haven’t had the recent stuff replaced yet but I’d estimate the overall cost to be £10,000 so far.”

Another St Mary’s Church - this time in Penwortham - has been hit four times in 18 months by lead thieves at a cost of more than £16,000.

Rev Chris Nelson, who has been at the church for 10 years, said: “People turning up to lay wreaths on their loved ones graves are finding it very difficult as we have had to lock the main entrance because the flagstone theft happened in the day.

“Everybody has been disgusted by the fact criminals are targeting the church.

“It has caused us great difficulties with insurance and we have had to install CCTV and signs as a deterrent.”

Sgt Shirley Osborne said: “This scheme is basically a two-way network which allows us to communicate direct with churches and for them to come to us with any concerns.

“It is run in a similar way to Neighbourhood Watch and was set up in response to recent lead thefts which have targeted churches.

“It will be used to circulate details of suspects and information about any crimes and scams in the area.

“We would remind churches to be extra vigilant.”

“Churches can also look at their CCTV, security lighting and apply anti-vandal paint to help prevent them from being targeted.”

Churches that want more information about the scheme can contact Beverley Warburton on 01772 625593.